My First SAG Job

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To join the union, an actor must first win a principal role in  a SAG production. Five nominees recall how they did it.

NICK NOLTE
Member Since: 1965
Nominated For: Male actor in a supporting role, Warrior

"It goes back nearly 50 years now. It was the Ronald Reagan series Death Valley Days when I was in the Actors Inner Circle repertory theater company in Phoenix. There was this casting director from Hollywood who, whenever he was in Arizona, would cast me in minor roles, including one in Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. It was an episode called "The Feather Farm" about a cowboy and ostriches. But the very first one, the one that got me my SAG card, was Death Valley Days. I don't remember the role, but I do remember the makeup man saying to me, 'You're very calm and confident.' I guess he didn't expect to see that from someone living in the hinterland."

KATHY BATES
Member Since: 1976
Nominated For: Female actor in a drama series, Harry's Law

"My first SAG job was as Selma in Straight Time with Dustin Hoffman in 1976. Warren Beatty had seen me in Vanities off-Broadway in New York and recommended me to Dustin. I met with Dustin in New York and then auditioned with him at his house in Los Angeles. He used a screen door as a prop -- we were on either side. He cast me that afternoon along with Gary Busey's son, Jake. I remember being so excited that I asked Dustin if I could call my mother. He got on the phone with her to tell her it was true. Then, of course, I had to join SAG."

DIANE LANE
Member Since: 1979
Nominated For: Female actor in a television movie or miniseries, Cinema Verite

"I was doing a play at the time at the Public Theater, Runaways, and it was slated to go to Broadway, but I was still going on auditions, which I did three times for A Little Romance, my first film. The director, George Roy Hill, also came to see the play, which might have tipped things in my favor. It was pretty crazy working with Laurence Olivier. I had a tremendous amount of awe and respect for him. He was a lovely man, incredibly gracious. He rehearsed with us for two weeks in France before we started filming. When the director said, 'I want you to cry at tomorrow's rehearsal when we do this scene,' that was the ultimate challenge: OK, I've gotta see if I can do this, on purpose, on cue, more than once and remember my lines. It was scary, but I was so afraid of failing, it reduced me to tears very easily. I learned right away: Use it. Whatever it is, use it."

TY BURRELL
Member Since: 2001
Nominated For: Male actor in a comedy series, Modern Family

"It was like a billion other New York actors, on an episode of Law & Order. I'm sad to think it isn't around anymore because it was such a workaday way for so many actors to pay their bills and get their insurance for so long. I played a guy whose wife was murdered -- but like most guest spots on procedurals, I did all exposition, setting up the storyline with my dialogue, and then the regulars, Jerry Orbach and Jesse Martin, asked questions like: 'Oh, really?' 'When?' 'Where do you see him?' 'You're kidding?' and then had some sort of quip at the end. Then my character found out that my wife had died, and I had to have a complete meltdown. My last scene was the resolution in the courtroom. It was like doing an actor decathlon. I was incredibly intimidated. It was terrifying and thrilling at the same time."

PATRICK J. ADAMS
Member Since: 2003
Nominated For: Male actor in a drama series, Suits

"I played a pledge brother in Todd Phillips' Old School. Casting director Joseph Middleton came to USC with Todd to hold a giant casting session. Not surprisingly, thousands of people showed up. As a student at USC's School of Theatre, I managed to secure a slot as one of the first 50 people to be seen. Everyone had about 15 seconds in front of Todd. After I finished my first read, he saw that I had 'Scottish accent' in the special-skills section of my résumé. He asked me to do the scene in a Scottish accent as a dare. Because I am Canadian and couldn't legally work in the U.S. at that time, I had to set the job up as an internship through the university. I had to write papers about my job experiences. They were the best papers I ever wrote."

 

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